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So they finally decide to resume contract negotiations ...

Saturday, September 09, 2006
... and nothing comes of it. So far, at least.

As first reported by Michael Arace at the Dispatch, there is quite the range difference in what Nikolai Zherdev wants compared to what Doug MacLean is willing to give. Let's compare the respective offers that have been bandied back and forth:

1-Year Deal
MacLean: $1.25 million
Zherdev: $2.75 million
Difference: $1.5 million

2-year deal
MacLean: $3.9 million
Zherdev: $5.75 million
Difference: $1.85 million

3-year deal
MacLean: $6.9 million
Zherdev: $9 million(!!!)
Difference: $2.1 million

You know, I could have sworn that earlier on in the negotiations, Zherdev and his agents were touting a lower salary if they were given a longer contract, compared to just a one- or two-year contract. Now all of a sudden, the longer the contract the higher the price tag they want? Well, that doesn't exactly make much sense. In a salary cap world, a margin of $600K can still be a real difference, especially if you want some wiggle room later on in the season or in the coming year.

I also want to know what happened with that "one week" deadline that was thrown down on the table about ... what, three weeks ago? I get the feeling that MacLean is starting to flinch. He might not be outright blinking as he tries to stare down Zherdev and his agents, but he's definitely flinching. Does this mean that soon enough we'll see Zherdev flying back to the United States and suiting up for the pre-season?

I'm tempted to say that unless a deal is done by the start of training camp Friday -- as is mentioned in the article -- Zherdev will be playing in Russia this season. But then again you never know. Parallels have already been made between Zherdev and Thrasher's 2005 hold-out Ilya Kovalchuk, and how he came to terms with Atlanta mere moments before negotiatons were going to end.

Let's consider Zherdev's contract demands from a salary cap standpoint, using Jes Golbez's table on the Jackets' salary that was made back in July, along with whatever has on any newer contract and salary figures. With about $6 million in wiggle room (actually, probably even less due to undisclosed contracts and the possibility of any two-way contract players making it up to the big show this season), I don't know if MacLean could even give Zherdev $3 million a year (the 3-year deal) if he wanted to. As it is, I seem to recall MacLean trying to avoid being so close to the salary cap ceiling before the season even started.

If he's going to buckle under the pressure and give in to any of the deals? I'd say go with the 2-year deal. It just seems the best route to go without breaking the bank on a player who -- while amazing -- still has much to work on.
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About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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